“Will you go with me to my formal?”


My Facebook feed is awash with gorgeous looking teenagers going off to their End of Year 12 Formals. This is because I have a nephew who is graduating. Most of the boys look quite awkward all dressed up, but the gals! Wow.

It is more Hollywood red-carpet rather than the Rooty Hill RSL club. The body confidence is amazing, as they dare to bare in very fashion forward frocks. Teeth are perfection, hair is blow-dried and UP-STYLED and make up is professionally applied. Spray tans are everywhere and heels defy the normal constraints of gravity. They would no doubt give those WAGS a run for their money.

But what I cannot help but do, is to draw on my own experiences of my own Formal.

To save money, Mum took me to the fabric shop, where we chose a modest, simple style that “would not date.” Note to self, everything dates. From there, I selected a rather matronly navy blue Thai silk, because exotic and fancy. We then hightailed it over to Mrs. Gascoigne’s house, who was the local dressmaker. Once the dress was ready, I teamed it with a conservative string of pearls and a pair of rancid black court shoes, which were Mum’s because navy and black look so good together. On the way there, driven by my oldies, I put some lipstick on and put my hair back in a ponytail.


I was only at my formal for an hour and a half, because I was dancing on a table and then some idiot bloke who was sitting on the other end of said table stood up, causing the table to tip. It was full of empty glasses, and as I fell I put my hand out to stop my fall. The ambulance came and carted me away to emergency, where the nurse took to my formal dress with a pair of scissors to get it off me, and where I spent the next 4 days under the care of a very good micro-surgeon who, turns out, was the husband of my HSC English teacher! Small world! I still have numbness in my left pinky, BUT IT WAS SAVED PEOPLE. (Although 10% off the price of Manicures would have been the silver lining)

I remember thinking, in Year 12, how fat I was. HA! If only I could go back to that 18-year-old and tell her that THIS was as good as it was going to get! I would also tell her to keep her face out of the sun at all costs. Spray tanning was not a thing back then.

I recall all the girls whose parents clearly loved them more than what mine loved me, who shelled out hundreds of dollars for something called a Studebaker Hawk Dress. So essentially, there were a whole group of gals who turned up wearing this…


My mate The Divine Ms. M wore one to her formal, which she reminded me of just this morning while we supervised out kids doing a cupcake decorating class. But hers was gold. Fancy.

Did you know that the corsage is back? WHY? A bracelet made of baby breath? You can also pay upwards of $400 to have your hair and make up professionally done, and pay extra to have the all important “trial.” Like a bloody wedding. And now, with social media being what it is, your photos can be ridiculed or praised the world over.

Yes, my foray into formals was a complete disaster. But in this age of the Kardashian juggernaut, and the expectations now ridiculous high, what are your thoughts on the whole palaver? And more importantly…